Moovers and Shakers 2005

Backbeat scribes weigh in on their favorite new releases from the past year.

Doe, On the Run Gettin Money/ Big City Big Dreams (Upset Records). As co-founder of Upset, a new label, Doe flooded the market with plenty of gangsta product this year. He also established himself as a formidable producer and MC on records featuring Nyke Loc, Cavalear, E-40 and the late Mac Dre, as well as on these two confident solo joints. -- Mayo

Dojo, Adaptation (Dojo Sound). Local sound-bombers DNile, McPullish and CacheFlow, among others, recontextualize the productions of Selecta Roswell, who forms the core of this experimental hip-hop group with Analog Suspect. The result is a kind of Asiatic-influenced tone poem that connects the dots between dub, trip-hop and other electronic assaults. -- Mayo

D.O. The Fabulous Drifta, Guns...The New Watermelon (Five Points Plan Recordings). The Ground Zero Movement may add up to more than the sum of its parts, but its individual elements are noteworthy on their own. Witness D.O., whose solo effort (assembled with a little help from his friends) is smart, funny, incisive and hooky as can be. He's Fabulous, and this disc is, too. -- Roberts

Bill Douglas and Ty Burhoe, Sky (Tala Records). Ty Burhoe is the area's foremost booster of the tabla, an instrument whose unexpected versatility is effectively showcased on his new imprint's first release. His playing splashes percussive color onto a broad palette highlighted by pianist Bill Douglas, bass magician Kai Eckhardt and ex-Journey drummer Steve Smith. This is one beautiful Sky. -- Roberts

Dressy Bessy, Electrified (Transdreamer Records). Tammy Ealom has always had a way with sunny pop. This time around, however, the memorable melodies she renders with the assistance of guitarist John Hill, drummer Craig Gilbert and bassist Rob Greene are dispensed in brawnier, more substantial ways. Thanks to this tack, the fun lingers instead of dissipating the instant the CD stops. -- Roberts

Drug Under, Drug Under (Fist Music). Drug Under's self-titled disc is one of the strongest hard-rock debuts in recent memory. Driven by Eric Greenwall's muscular fretwork and the powerful, polished vocals of Chris Romero, the album brims with one standout track after another. All killer with no filler, Drug Under is a must-have for fans of heavy, melodic tuneage. -- Herrera

Tha Empire Nation, "Birth of an Empire Mixtape," 303rd Division, (Self-released). Tha Empire Nation is dedicated to helping a nationwide pool of artists get their music heard outside their area codes. This excellent sampler, mixed by DJ Chonz, is a first step. The disc features Nation co-founders L.O.C. and D-Smooth, plus a new generation of MCs (Cal-Gone, Thu-G, M.O.E., Pimpsta Mystik) who drop rhymes over blazing beats. -- Mayo

Extra Kool, Mouth Full of Stitches (Dirty Laboratory). On his fourth solo record, Kool, a member of Optik Fusion Embrace, delivers rapid-fire punches that pummel listeners with amusing titles ("Subtle Evolution of a Sock Puppet") and ironic twists ("I'm So Happy"). Satyr, who provides the bulk of the beats, creates a stark atmosphere in which Kool vents his imagination. -- Mayo

Felisa, Sacrificios (Mestisoul Entertainment). Felisa Herrera doesn't stick to a single sound. Rather, she mines a slew of subgenres ranging from pop and R&B to hip-hop and reggaeton to produce an enjoyably multi-culti hybrid. Sacrificios is advertised as a preview of a forthcoming double CD. If this sample is any indication, the final package will be an embarrassment of riches. -- Roberts

The FlashBangs, Viva La Blah Blah Blah (Self-released), Soon after issuing their stunning debut full-length, the FlashBangs imploded. Too bad for Denver. The group's purity and from-the-barrel belligerence made the rest of the world's Joan Jett-setters sound pale by comparison. Why couldn't some of the sucky bands around here have broken up instead? -- Heller

The Fray, How to Save a Life (Epic). Unsurprisingly, How to Save a Life, the national debut from one of Denver's most high-profile acts to date, is proving to be a crossover success. After all, it's bolstered by earnest, contemplative songs that are instantly relatable. If you've only heard "Over My Head (Cable Car)" and assume that's as good as it gets, you really should get a Life. -- Herrera

Fred Hess Quartet, Crossed Paths (Tapestry). Hess has been one of Denver's finest saxophonist for ages -- and no wonder, since he's blessed with impeccable taste, gorgeous tone and undimmed curiosity. Assisted by a highly skilled cast led by trumpeter Ron Miles, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Matt Wilson, Hess turns numbers such as "On Perry St." into Paths worth taking. -- Roberts

GasHead, Knuckles Avec Sombreros (Fist Music). Instrumental thrash with an understated Latin sensibility, GasHead's successor to LandSpeedRecord takes humorous liberties by tweaking metal's big, bad, bloated sense of itself. Instead of snarling goats and inverted crosses, the Fort Collins-based trio raises Molotov cocktails in a gleeful toast to abstract science, hockey and the absurd. Shred alert! -- La Briola

The Inactivists, Disappointing Follow-up (Self-released). As self-deprecating as they are innovative, the nerd-friendly members of the Inactivists take a playful approach to pop confection. But what exactly to call it? Theremin-addled funk? Clarinet-driven spazz-lounge? Jazz-baiting excursions into the darkest underbelly of the 4H Club? It's all that and more, Poindexter. -- La Briola

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